Once the craziness of Thanksgiving is over—bam! It’s time for more holiday excitement. Not only does that mean more shopping, but it also means a lot of decorating. My favorite part of sprucing the house for the holidays is the tree! Picking out the tree is a big family excursion that we look forward to every year. Since picking out a tree is more complicated than just pointing and saying “I want that one,” I put together the 8 most common mistakes you’ll want to avoid when picking out your tree this season!

1. Buying a tree that looks more alive than it actually is

The last thing I want on Christmas Day is a dry, discolored tree dropping needles all over my living room floor. So it's important to buy the freshest tree possible. The best way to ensure you are getting a fresh tree is to run a branch through your hands to get a feeling for texture.

Signs of a healthy tree:

  • Branches and needles are soft and bendable when you touch them.
  • Green color is vibrant. Avoid trees that have been sprayed with fake color, sparkles, or other decorations.
  • Needles stay on the branches even when you shake the tree.

2. Buying too much tree for your home

I don't know about you, but to me trees tend to look a lot smaller in the big outdoors than when you get them back home. So always measure the size of your space, any doorways, and your tree stand before making a purchase.

When it comes to height, make sure to leave at least one foot from the top of your tree to the roof so that you have plenty of space for the star or angel on top. But don't forget about the width too. Lots of places taper trees at about 80%, which means a ten-foot tree is about 8 feet wide. So even if your home has high ceilings, a huge tree may not look right (even if it fits through the door). Similarly, a really slim tree in a big space may not make much of an impact. So if you're not sure, consider marking out the measurements on the floor and walls with masking tape to get a feeling of how the tree will fill up your room.

3. Buying the wrong tree for your decorations

Have you ever bought a Christmas tree home only to discover it doesn't work well with your ornaments? Or perhaps it doesn't have the right fragrance or drops more needles than you were hoping? Each tree variety has its own characteristics, so be sure to check.

If you have heavy ornaments go for a White Spruce or Noble Fir. If fragrance is important to you, consider a Fraser Concolor, Balsam Fir or Douglas Fir. While if needle retention is the most important factor, White Pines or White Spruces are good options.

For more information visit National Christmas Tree Association.

4. Buying a tree that is impossible to pet-proof

If you have pets—or curious toddlers who love to eat whatever they find—you’ll want to factor in some kind of barrier system before you select the tree itself.

What to consider:

  • Can you fit the tree in an area that can be thoroughly closed off from pets and kids?
  • Can you access the electrical outlet to run your lights?
  • Has your tree been sprayed with preservatives or decorations that include hazardous chemicals?
  • Can you keep pets and kids away from the tree's water source?
  • Can you keep fragile or potentially hazardous/toxic decorations out of your pet/child's reach?

5. Buying your tree from a self-service lot

The best way to ensure you get your tree home in good condition is to buy it from a place that cuts, bails and ties it onto the car for you. If not, make sure you think about how you are going to get it home. Remember to bring ropes to tie it, an old blanket to protect the top of your car, and enough muscle to pack it onto the car (and carry it into the house when you get home).

6. Not giving the tree enough water

With the proper hydration, most Christmas trees will stay fresh and green for around 4-5 weeks. So as soon as you get your tree home, pop it in a bucket of water in a well shaded area. Then once it's up, check the stand's water level frequently to ensure it doesn't dry up.

The first few days are particularly crucial. Most Christmas trees can go through a couple of gallons of water in the first 24 hours and if are left dry will form a seal over the base that prevents them from taking up further water. If this does happen, make another fresh cut and place it in water immediately.

7. Buying a tree that causes you to overspend or overload your circuits

Your tree may look fabulous all strung up with lights. But if it maxes out your year-end utilities budget or trips the circuit breaker on a regular basis, you may realize too late that you’ve made a mistake. Christmas Lights Etc. has a handy guide to help you calculate how much energy you will use and how much it will cost.

8. Not considering artificial

While I am a huge fan of real Christmas trees, they are certainly not for everyone. If you're prone to allergies; don't have enough time for watering, maintenance and clean-up; or are on a tight budget, it may be worthwhile to consider buying an artificial tree.

While the average money spent on an artificial tree in 2013 was $81.30 as opposed to $35.30 for a real tree, an artificial tree will be around for many, many years to come. And chances are you'll begin saving money as early as the second or third year. Remember, if you buy a tree that is pre-lit, the savings can be even greater.

Here are a few of the great deals we tracked down online for well-rated, artificial, pre-lit trees:

 

Don't Make These 8 Errors When Buying a Christmas Tree!